Back from the Dead: The Land Use Committee Kicks Off

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

From commercial cannabis locations to “granny flats,” from California Coastal Commission woes to Airbnb conflicts: The newly revived Land Use Committee of the Pacific Palisades Community Council covered the waterfront at its first meeting on Thursday, July 27.

The nine-strong committee, chaired by property law expert Howard Robinson, raced through seven items on the agenda that have all caused friction in the Palisades over the last year.

They were guided by Ezra Gale, who has been, for the last two years, a planning specialist employed by Councilmember Mike Bonin. He was able to sketch out the political background to many of the town’s infrastructure complaints.

Gale said that re:code LA, the city’s bid to rationalize building codes that date back to the 1940s, was in full swing, changing how planning rules regulate neighborhoods.

“It is moving on from Euclidean spots on maps to modeling the types of buildings wanted in an area,” Gale said. “Rules regulating R-1 (single-family homes) structures will be subject to updated community plans. That is being rolled out area by area, and that will be your opportunity to say what you want to see in the future in your neighborhood.

“There is no specific timetable here, but the 35 community plans will roll out over six years. They will be looking at the Valley before the Westside, so it’s some time away.”

He said these may be connected with prospective Coastal Commission plan changes, which since the 1970s, has laid down the law on properties within 1,000 yards of the beach—and saved many beaches and other sensitive areas. But the plans are overdue change.

He said there will be new “local coastal plans,” also known as “applicable zones,” but that process will reach hyper-gentrifying Venice before the Palisades.

It could speed up planning hearings from the current nine months, closer to the old expectation of three to six months.

Gale said the long-running debate about granny flats will reach the city’s Planning and Land Use Management committee later this year, when new standards could be proposed. Right now planners, dealing with a housing shortage, are authorizing the safer additions in return for developers building more affordable housing.

The tangled issue of short-term rentals, as through Airbnb, will also come up at PLUM in a bid to prevent the mass eviction of the poor and the creation of de facto mini-hotels, he said.

The question is how long can an owner rent out a house before it becomes a hotel—180 days per year, or 90 or 60? And how can such rules be enforced?

Gale also referenced a city map highlighting where cannabis clinics could be built in the Palisades after Jan. 1, 2018, only indicated two locations in Los Liones.

But, as both are near the Westside Waldorf School, which is not shown on the map, it seems as if the Palisades may remain cannabis smoke-free for a little longer.